Mass organizations, derogatorily referred to as communist “front groups,” provided plenty of opportunities for transnational interactions during the early Cold war period. The largest and most important of these were the World Peace Council (WPC), the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), and the Women’s International Democratic Federation (WIDF), but youth and student international meetings organized under the umbrella of the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY) and the International Union of Students (IUS) also provided rich opportunities for cultural and political exchanges. Initially both organizations were strongly European-oriented, but in the 1950s their influence spread out to Asia, Africa, and Latin America, thereby bringing those regions into a transnational orbit. The youth and student festivals they organized played a key role in encouraging the development of strong transnational connections. In the process, they helped foster the organizational and political capacity of communist movements in what later came to be known as the global south and contributed to heightened levels of militancy in what have come to be known as the “global 1960s.” Their successes subjected them to intense scrutiny from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which inadvertently created a documentary record that permits a study of their activities.
Keywords: Youth; Students; Mass Organizations; World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY); International Union of Students (IUS); Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)